You could write about how hard it is to come to an opinion on Islam, and whether Islam itself is responsible for the terror committed in its name. Or, is it true what the politicians say, and Islam itself is a “religion of peace” hijacked by radicals. I am going to try to jam a lot of thoughts into a post without making it TLDR, and hopefully provoke some contentious, internets-worthy debate.
It’s easy to take a knee-jerk position on Islam and terror. The knee-jerk progressive left tree hugger special snowflake position is that “Islam has nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism, and to think so is racist against millions of Islamics who haven’t directly committed an act of terror.” Because, you know, no one knows better than secular Western leftists what the True Spirit of Islam is.
It’s easy to want to believe this take, because Gen X and each succeeding generation have been indoctrinated in multiculturalism and taught that, literally, the worst sin a person could commit is being a racist, worse than murder or rape, or even child-rape. Roman Polanski raped a 13 year old girl, Victor Salva raped an 11 year old boy and both are respected in the show business world. Paula Deen used a racial slur 25 years ago and her show business career is over. So, being racist carries more social stigma than child rape and it’s pretty easy to just go along with the notion that it’s unfair to try and think there’s something wrong with Islam. But on the other hand, we confront the nagging reality that Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, and Presbyterians aren’t blowing up people every day in the name of religion.
And we *want* to believe that Islam is a religion of peace, not just because of the indoctrination we’ve been getting since childhood, but because it offends the rational part of our brain to write off an entire culture of people. The rational part of our brain also recognizes that however many Mohammedans there are in the world, it’s obvious that a vast majority of them are not committing terrorist acts. We can accept the idea that it’s just a fringe group of whackjobs. (Granted, even if that fringe is only 10% of Muslims, that’s still over 100M people we have to worry about. That’s a problem.)
It’s not like there aren’t other faiths that have a problem with whackjobs. When a Christian goes nuts, it looks like this. When a Jew goes nuts, it looks like this. But when a Muslim goes nuts… it too often looks like this.
One of these things is just not like the freakin’ others. And when is the last time Christians or Jews or Buddhists or Sikhs or Taoists or anybody slaughtered a bunch of innocent people because they were offended by some cartoons in a magazine? It is true that people have engaged in terrorism under the color of Christianity, the most recent example was the prolonged terror campaign by Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland. The leader of the Roman Catholic church stood up and condemned the violence.
“Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity, the life, the freedom of human beings. Violence is a crime against humanity, for it destroys the very fabric of society … On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace… Let history record that at a difficult moment in the experience of the people of Ireland, the Bishop of Rome set foot in your land, that he was with you and prayed with you for peace and reconciliation, for the victory of justice and love over hatred and violence.” — Pope John Paul II, Appeal to IRA in Drogheda, September 1979
Ok, that’s not really fair, some Imams have spoken about the bombings, saying, “This is what happens when you insult our Prophet you infidel swine.”
Christians do not kill people for not becoming Christians. Jews do not kill people for not professing Judaism. But groups like ISIS and Boko Haram have slaughtered thousands for precisely that reason. Christians also don’t kill people for leaving Christianity, but as Imam Anjem Choudary makes clear, that is precisely what Islam demands. Huge majorities of Muslims agree.
And yet, a thinking person must still resist the urge to throw blanket bigotry on all Mohammdans; which would be as mindlessly stupid as the progressive position of giving them all a pass. Among other reasons, most of us know or have known Muslims who weren’t sociopathic lunatics like Anjem Choudary or Louis Farrakhan.
It’s like we’re saying, “Islam, we want to like you. We really want to believe that hippie crap about Islam being ‘one of the world’s great religions.’ But you guys have to meet us halfway on this. You have to do something about the murderous lunatics who claim the mantle of Islam; or at least not piss and moan when non-Muslims do something about them. And if you want us to respect your culture, you have to respect ours. Leftists will never demand that of you, but people who aren’t hippie idiots will.”
Maybe “Is Islam responsible for the terrorist acts committed by adherents?” is the wrong question entirely. Maybe the right question is, “Can Islamics live peacefully alongside people of other religions?” or “How can Islamics learn to live peacefully alongside people of other religions?” That may be a more practical question to ask.
And the only people who can really answer it are the Islamics themselves.